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  • 執筆者の写真Yuko

3.9. Duel

更新日:6月19日



Empty thoughts helped me to engage in driving and painful wrists from a Kendo practice gave me consciousness. I was driving a car heading west toward the beautiful tangerine orange sunset in the west. Nobody misses it from my car. So, my 14-year-old daughter must have seen it, even engaging using her smartphone. 


Since my daughter joined the Kendo Dojo last February 2023, this has become our daily routine. I spent time with her after school every Monday. We sit in the car next to each other for 2 hours round trip and then practice swordsmanship in the same space. This routine has improved our interpersonal relationship, even though we remained silent. When we talk, we have the same topic regarding Kendo and our friends we both know in Dojo. It was like spinning straw into gold.  



I tried to remember the tension in the emotional atmosphere surrounding us last year. It was rough and dry like straw stirring my blood. Surprisingly, it reminded me of last night's meditation. I felt similar in my blood when I faced the black sheep. It stayed still and didn’t move at all but had such existence. I couldn’t do anything and the uncomfortable feeling got bigger and bigger. I felt similar when I was with my daughter last year, but I don’t feel it now in the car. Even though we didn’t talk. Silence didn’t put us under any pressure. 


I was wondering why. 


“Of course, you applied the seven-stepping.” Satchi’s voice resonated in the beautiful sunset. Yes, Satchi was right. I meditated about her, especially the energy connections between us in meditation many times.


I gazed at the place above where the light indigo colour intersected with the beautiful tangerine orange colour. It triggered the sudden remembrance of a past feeling buried beneath forgotten memories. 


The graduation of the sky reignited the neural pathways associated with that particular emotion.



Yes! Instantly, I was transported back to a specific moment when I experienced a similar feeling - whether it would be confusion, discomfort, shame or doubts. It was during Kendo's training.  


However, I fortunately feel them less. Instead, I could understand the opponent and it gave me some strength and I felt harmonious satisfaction. There was a sort of transformation in me.


Has anything changed in my inner mind or have I learned something through two years of Kendo training?



With darkening twilight hues of azure and speed of lights, I slowly began to unravel the secret of Kendo, Japanese swordsmanship. This revelation stirred within me and it became clear that the secret was a fusion of strength and vulnerability. 


It was important to pay attention to this fusion because I didn't have it when I started writing three years ago when I was struggling in my life. 


So, how did Kendo training create this fusion?


While I just used the word "training" in English, we use a different word, "Keiko" for Kendo compared to the other sports training in Japanese. The word "Keiko:稽古" means "to consider the old which means the past" and was used to refer to training in martial arts and performing arts from the 12 century of the Kamakura period in Japan. 


The Kamakura period was established by the first shōgun Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1185. Since then, powerful samurai clans held significant political and military power and a feudal system arose and flourished in Japan.


Interestingly, the Kamakura period was a time of significant growth and influence of Zen Buddhism in Japan. Many samurai warriors embraced Zen teachings, which emphasised mindfulness, discipline, and meditation.


Satchi, this meditation was highly likely “只管打坐:Shikantaza”. Their preference continues to Kendo.


Let me return to the topic of Keiko. "Keiko" refers to the need to hone one's skills daily to develop artistic ability while emphasising the importance of one's "attitude" toward the art including martial arts.  Therefore, the training process is directly connected to one's "way of life". The "Keiko" is an important element that integrates art and way of life. 


The sky was filled with a deep shade of blue before me who was driving at 100 km per hour. It was one of the most beautiful blues and recalled the colour of Kendo armour and training wear. I touched the secret of this blue moment. 


"The integration of art and way of life creates a fusion of strength and vulnerability." 


Then, how?


It continues to question the quality of movement. 


Yes, it is. My Kendo teacher has asked me to improve the quality of my movement for two years. And you, Satchi also, right? My meditation teacher has challenged me on the quality of movement in everything I can’t see. 


I was satisfied while driving in the dark. There was no room for confusion, discomfort, shame or doubts.



I came home and took a hot shower. My dog Inca was already sleeping on my bed. Her four legs were in the air. I tried to sit on the bed quietly. I crossed my legs in the lotus and slowly closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply and slowly and exhaled even slower. It was my favourite moment. Soon, my counting synchronised with the sound of my heart. 


I imagined spinning a merkaba in the Pineal gland in my head and it helped me to focus on connecting to the top from my crown chakra and to the bottom from my base chakra. Then, I enlarged the merkaba protection and I was sitting inside of the protection. I was ready.


I returned to the moment I left in the last meditation. There was the Enso and I felt somebody dark inside the circle. I focused on breathing and kept my heart beating steady, just like I learnt in Keiko, where I pursued the quality of movement. 


“Tell me what have you learnt?” 


The voice was resonating in my head. Momently, the voice drew the sky behind my eyelids. I remembered this sky. I saw this sky through somebody’s eyes three years ago when I was totally lost in myself. Somebody was my great-grandmother whom I’ve never met, but I met her in my meditation. She was a member of the Samurai clan in Shiroishi, which means a white stone, located in north part of Japan.


I stood in front of her existence inside the Enso circle. It was too dark to identify who or what was there. It didn’t matter at all anymore. I must trust my feeling. I could be myself whatever was in front of me. It would be a reflection of myself, like a self-portrait. I must do the way I do in Kendo Keiko.


In Kendo’s Keiko, opponents boldly but politely and sincerely look for my opening opportunity. The openings were created anywhere and anytime in me. Then, they hit it immediately with pain. 



The pain was more direct than words. It showed me poor quality of movement with outer focus, immaturity and irrationality. But, I have no moment to taste this pain with my judgment. Nobody interested in my judgement. Yes, this is extremely important. Only me, perhaps my sub-personality was keenly interested in own judgement. Instead, I must focus on finding their openings with the touching tips of bamboo swords. It was like looking at myself in the mirror. Because the opening often happens when I attack. 


Through hundreds of Keiko, I knew that I was awfully bad at measuring the right distance. I was always too close to the opponent and showed all the cards in my hands to them. The desire to win made me aggressive, but the opponent had no hesitation in biting me with the quality of their movement. After hundreds of tries, I realised that my way of fighting in kendo was the same as the way I communicated with others in my life. While looking at the bruise on my right arm, I realised how self-centred and one-sided I was in Keikos. The bruises were the proof that I failed in Kendo Keikos and in my past relationships.


I answered her. 


“I have learned the subtle nuances of distance and strategy, mirroring the delicate balance required in navigating the intricate terrain of relationships.” 


Then, the darkness of the Enso cracked and the light leaked out. At the same time, from the crack in my wounded heart, a new understanding blossomed, blooming like a tender shoot reaching towards the light. Just as Kendo taught me to anticipate my opponent's moves and adapt swiftly, so too did I realise the importance of communication and empathy in forging connections. 



The new understanding from my heart reached the light inside the Enso. I felt an exquisite sensation in my base chakra and it went through me. A person appeared against the backlight. Behind him, I could feel the existence of my great-grandmother who was challenging me to communicate with this person. 


I have known this person since he was born. Our bond was rooted in a shared childhood and familial ties. We would spend hours playing with Lego together every day, our favourite game was to create a spaceship and load it up with all our toys before blasting off into the universe. 


But our joy was always short-lived because as soon as my mother caught sight of the mess, she would start screaming and yelling at us to clean up. My little brother was often too young to tidy up properly, so it always fell to me. All the while tears streaming down my cheeks. Once the mess was finally cleared, I would try to seek comfort in my mother's arms, only to be met with a cold push away.


I began to have a complex and contradictory relationship with him. I once adored him with a fierce and protective love as a big sister, but as he veered off the path of righteousness, my feelings towards him shifted. His actions brought chaos and pain into our family, causing me to bury my love for him deep within me. Instead, I found myself consumed by resentment, anger, and disappointment towards him. And fear grew in me.


The person inside the Enso responded to my negative feelings and said.


“I stood up to our mother, Sis. She had always nagged us to study hard and tidy up with a screaming voice. There was no love in our family. So I got revenge on her. She didn't give us love, so I asked for money. Money was love for me. The more I annoyed her, the happier I was. When I abandoned our parents in Japan, my goal was accomplished. I was finally free from them. Sis, anyway, you got love from her, because you played your role as a good daughter in our family.”  



He became the black sheep, the outsider who stood apart from the rest of us. Our relationship became a tangled web of conflicting emotions, a blend of love and disdain that I had been struggling to untangle. 


“Can you untangle it?” 


It must be the voice of my great-grandmother. It was a dignified vibration that left no room for argument.


“Yes, I can. This is my role as a firstborn daughter.” I answered and continued. 


“I will challenge him to a duel. After the duel, I can untangle the web of conflicting emotions between us. Please allow us to fight within siblings and be a judge for it.” I politely asked her. Then, I sat properly and deeply vowed. 


Subconsciously, I thought my great-grandmother didn’t want me to fight against my younger brother. That is why I asked her permission. At the same time, I wanted to fight with him because I couldn’t forgive what he did to our parents who passed away in 2020, which is 4 years ago. 


Why does his misbehave as an ungrateful son bother me so much? 


Through my meditation journey with you, Satchi. I grounded negativities related to my family, plenty of them... I even went through past lives. However, it still clung to me when I was in the last stage of grounding sub-personalities. It was like an eerie black sheep standing before the last boss when I had learnt about Samurai spirit which was the challenge our great-grandmother gave me three years ago. Moreover, she brought the black sheep to me. We must be tied up in some incredibly heavy something which might be inherited in my blood from our ancestors who were Bushi Samurai warriors. 


Could it be Karma?  


Actions of the heart that ignore all reason. Karma also has other meanings in Japanese. It can refer to one’s work or deeds. Some could call it a higher calling. One works because they are compelled to do so by some higher power.


I saw my great-grandmother nodded, or felt her agreement.


Firstly, I explained to her what I learnt about Samurai spirit.


Bushi, a Japanese samurai, had a special virtue called “武士道:Bushi-do” which means the path to be Bushi. It represented the ideal attitude and ethics for Bushi, a Japanese warrior, sought in his life, actions, and thoughts. Through Bushi-do, samurai can naturally boosted self-esteem and pride. This is the pride that my great-grandmother asked me to have three years ago when she appeared in the meditation and gave me a dagger I used to cut blockages, traumas and evil spirits. 


Then, Kendo appeared on my path by chance or fate, and through my continued training, I finally understood a bit about Bushido, which is also the foundation of Kendo. It was subtle like staining Indigo dye on my fingers from new training wear. But surely I was in Bushido.


It was expressed in 4 letters, 五常五輪, Gojo-Go-rin. 


"Gojo: Five Virtues" and "Gorin: Five Rings" are essential notions in Bushido. Go:五 is five in Japanese.


In order to keep this teaching, there are the five folds in the hakama training wear. Before training, when we put on the hakama and tie the strings, we must look at these five pleats to remind us.  


"Gojo" is a Confucian concept that refers to the five virtues that humans should possess in the Analects:論語, also known as the Sayings of Confucius. These five virtues are Jin:仁 (love for humanity with a compassionate heart, suppress selfish desires, and practice good manners), Gi:義 (justice which is to do what needs to be done, regardless of self-interest), Rei:礼 (politeness including manners), Chi:智 (wisdom), and Shin:信 (trust which is to be true to one's word, to keep one's promises, and to be sincere), and these virtues should be practised in Bushido, the path to be Bushi. 


Kendo Keiko (practice) is created to experience these five virtues.


Firstly, I practice Rei, politeness. Because Kendo starts with Rei:礼, politeness and ends with Rei:礼.


Then, I gradually feel Jin:仁, harmony. It took two years. It convinced me that I haven’t experienced real harmony throughout my life, especially in my family. 


Jin, love for humanity, is extensively discussed in the Analects. Confucius uses hundreds of questions and answers to elaborate on this concept. Jin encompasses various forms of compassion, highlighting its importance in different relationships. Among Confucius's five virtues, Jin is considered the most crucial.


Oh, my God!


I opened my eyes and ran to the bookshelf. I found the book, the Saying of Confucius. Incredible truth was in my hand. Delving into its pages, I realised the profound significance of its teachings. It feels as though it was destined for me to uncover its wisdom at this very moment.


Because I received this book from my younger brother about 20 years ago during a chance meeting in Shanghai, where I used to live and he was on a business trip. We shared a memorable dinner at a round table, just like an Enso circle in a Chinese restaurant. We had a moment of rare harmony between us.


I opened the book and the delicate brown thread was placed in the middle. It was the chapter of Rijin 理仁 which tells to love for humanity with a compassionate heart, suppress selfish desires, and practice good manners.


Could something like this really happen?


At that moment, perhaps time was flowing from the future to the past?


Was it for this moment that my fate with my brother was created?


I went to the kitchen. It was pitch black. Slowly and gracefully, I started to brew coffee. Soon, the steam was released with a consistent and repetitive sound. A rhythmic hissing noise was soothing me and increased a quality of atmosphere in the quiet of the night. While listening to the high-pressure steam escaping from the espresso machine, I sang a faint humming and enjoyed vibrating throat.


"Om"


The oven in the kitchen showed 22:22 in red. The aroma of coffee danced in the air.



I returned to the bedroom in dark, sat in lotus once again and closed my eyes. Savouring the aroma of fragrant coffee in the middle of the night, I was calm but energised. I evoked a sense of anticipation for surrendering myself to this mysterious flow of time, future to past. Letting myself go with the flow, it led me to the same place as before, but in the different dimension. I got it! I understood something.


I continued to answer to my great grandmother.


In Kendo, we practice together with all ages, levels, genders and nationalities. It was extremely serious and hard. Contradictory, I learnt how a compassionate heart create. It will create from respect. I respect fellows without words and conditions.


Then, I began to trust people a little by little. It was Shin:信. Before, I couldn't. I had doubted myself to trust people. I accepted this fact and started to learn it slowly. It was not easy. But I must learn if I am not good at.


These five virtues is wisdom which is Chi:智. Practising Gojo, these moral precepts will make us good human beings. 


On the other hand, "Five Rings: 五輪" is a Buddhist concept that indicates the stages of training to free humans from suffering and confusion. These are Jirin:地輪 (ring of ground which is lust), Suirin:水輪 (ring of water which is anger), Karin:火輪 (ring of fire which is stupidity), Furin: 風輪(ring of wind which is madness), and Kurin:空輪 (ring of air which is ignorance).


It is said that it is possible to attain enlightenment by transcending these five rings.


Through the training of Kendo, we can overcome these inner obstacles such as lust, anger, stupidity, madness, and ignorance, and promote spiritual growth.


In other words, through training with Gorin Gojo in Kendo, we can develop not only our technical and physical abilities but also their mental aspects in a well-balanced manner, which ultimately leads to contributing to society.


Through the disciplined practice of swordsmanship, I discovered the art of vulnerability and courage, channelling my inner strength to mend the fractures of the past and embrace a future filled with renewed hope and understanding.


I breathed slowly and deeply again to charge infinite energy. I was in front of the Enso. I felt the existence of my great-grandmother behind us. I counted down from 10. 


I said to her.

It took three years to be aware of where I belong. I learnt to conduct myself in a manner that prevents any feeling of shame. I will fight a duel over this pride.


I stood in front of the Enso.


"Hajime!" strong voice released just like the high-pressure steam from the espresso machine. Hajime means start.


I unleashed a powerful “Kiai” scream with vibrations on full blast from my throat. I put all negativities toward him in it and he did the same. We would get rid of all in this duel. Both negativities crashed and ate each other like two starved bears after hibernation. It disappeared and remained silent.


Only the tip of my bamboo sword touched him. In that split second of contact, we sense everything about us from different perspectives, making us a mental and physical challenge and leading us to the one truth. 


Samurai won’t focus on the opponent’s thoughts or plans but on five viewpoints which lead to the truth which is the best opportunity to attack. So do I.


This wisdom is called “五観:GoKan一見:Ikken”.


This is the second thing I’ve learnt through Kendo practice. And I am still learning. To be honest, I was horrible when I started Kendo. I did the opposite.


I embarrassingly focused on my thoughts, even not the opponent’s one. I was so self-centred and bombarded with thoughts. It was like the way to judge my younger brother, but now I will communicate with him five viewpoints to release the tangled emotions and ground both my and his sub-personalities which were split when he veered off the path of righteousness and my feelings towards him shifted.


I tried the first perspective called “手裏剣:Shuriken”. I focused on hands movements instead of what he said to me. It was not easy, because I was distracted by what he said in the past. I applied the five stepping technique which my meditation teacher taught me.


Gradually, I could focus on his hands movements through the tip of the bamboo sword like a usual Kendo Keiko. I had a big shock because I touched a vulnerability and strength in him that I had never imagined before. Tears moistened my eyes and filled my heart. I knew that we were both just desperate for love. My heart re-opened to him. 


Next, I adopted the second method called “水月:Suigetsu”. I woke up my ability to feel harmony with him by connecting my heart chakra to his one. Then two small children appeared. They were playing together with full of joy.


I tried the third method called "神妙剣: Shinmyoken". I consider the relationship with my little brother as sacred. They became angels. While finding the opportunity to attack this angel, I cultivated an attitude of valuing connection and respect with him.


Then, I found "病気:byoki" in him. It means sickness, but in Kendo, it refers to perceiving weaknesses and disturbances in my opponent's mind. Finally, I identified weaknesses and disturbances hidden in my little brother. It was his ego.


The fifth perspective called 身手足:shu(body) Te(hands) Ashi(legs). 

We read the opponent's overall movements which means body, hands and legs while preparing our body, hands and legs to attack. I imagined my body just before releasing an arrow from a bow.


I was reading his overall movement and he slightly dropped his bamboo sword. His ego decided to attack me. It couldn't wait any longer.



I spotted the opportunity to release my bamboo sword.


I cut his ego from his head.


"Men Ari!" my great grandmother said sharply and raised her left arm which was my side.


I cut his ego in half. The circle of Enso caught and squeezed it and dropped into the centre of the Earth. At the same time, I hugged two little children.


I felt so relax and our borders are melting. Suddenly I touched something hard with both hands. I grabbed them and looked at them. They were flints. I didn't know why, but I recognised them as flints. I stroke a spark from flints.


The spark ignited our molten bodies. We were engulfed in flames. The flames were not hot.

We flew up to the infinity. Our flame covered the infinity mark.



Then, heavy rain washed all. A yellow field spread before me and my black dog Inca was walking a path.


I found the path.


My psychic vision was back. I fell into sleep while feeling numbed legs.


To be continued to 3.10. Getting on Board

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